During times of stress and uncertainty, we tend to turn toward our healers. Darian Hall and Elisa Shankle, co-founders of Brooklyn’s HealHaus, know this very well. In a year that’s upended lives across the globe, wellness practices have been a salve for many. That means Hall and Shankle have been busier than ever. “When it hit really hard, we were going hard for our community because people really needed it. People didn’t have a language for what was going on. People were feeling paralyzed,” Shankle says.
Only two years old, HealHaus usually provides daily yoga and meditation classes as well as private therapy, energy healing, naturopathic medicine, and massage out of its Fulton Street studio. This year, they’ve made a speedy transition to affordable digital services like the HealHaus Live virtual membership, donation-based Instagram soundbaths, and $10 drop-in Zoom yoga and meditation classes. They’ve even created the HealHaus Therapy Fund to provide free individual talk therapy for the BIPOC community.
It’s admirable how quickly they accomplished it all (a matter of weeks), but as New Yorkers and Black small business owners, they know moving — and moving fast — is key to sticking around. “As New Yorkers, we’re accustomed to a fast-paced environment and constant change,” Hall says. It’s a trait that trickles into their style, too. “What I wear is a reflection of me and the city I live in. My style has evolved as I have evolved as a person.”
This story of their constant evolution, from transforming the Brooklyn wellness space amidst a pandemic, to how they’re relearning to exist outside of work, is what makes the duo so compelling. This is why, in partnership with SOREL, we chatted with them about it all: what it’s been like adapting to the new world of wellness, showing up for marginalized communities and how style, among other things, has helped them take care of themselves during this time. Because now more than ever, healers need a little healing, too.
Even in a tumultuous year, NYC’s creatives are rising to the challenge — re-envisioning their work, supporting their communities, and inspiring change. To celebrate the spirit of vibrance and renewal, The Cut has partnered with SOREL to bring you the stories of six unstoppable individuals from New York City’s creative communities. Take a walk with us as we explore their work, values, resilience, and all the ways their style propels them forward. Previously, The Pastry Chef Finding Creativity Amid Chaos, and The Fashion Writer Who Bet On Herself, and The DJ and Musician Who’s Setting Herself Free From Expectations.
Building a community and creating safe space for healing is a big part of what HealHaus does. What was it like to not be able to meet in person and have that in-person community and energy?
Darian: I think we’re all still figuring that out. We had already built up a really strong community that was supportive of what we were doing. The obvious thing was that we had to put everything online. So Elisa and I figured out what that was going to look like in terms of programming, how many classes, and all that.
Elisa: I knew we had to get things moving and get it online quickly. We started that process by doing a series of live sessions that were just on Instagram Live that got people introduced to the community and our practitioners. It built excitement and suspense. Then when we dropped everything, it was really beautiful, because our community just came out and supported us and supported our teachers. When everything went virtual, it was also about providing community for teachers.
How have you both been moving forward during this time in your personal lives?
Darian: I’ve just been, go, go, go, go for two plus years, because of everything that we want HealHaus to be, and the vision behind it, and the amount of people we want to reach. My mind is still running a lot and I’m still thinking all these things, but not having a physical space kind of took the stress away about worrying about that piece of it and I could just focus on the digital aspect and the other things that we want to do.
Elisa: I had to make some radical shifts and be like, “Okay, well, where are my priorities? Is my work first, is my personal life, my mental health first?” Even as a wellness space owner, it can be super conflicting because you’re in this work, but then you’re a co-founder. It’s still work, right? But right now I feel great. I feel super grounded being back in New York and preparing for fall and also just moving into our next phase.
Has style been a part of that transformation?
Elisa: Style is definitely a part of that. It’s part of how I like to express myself because I am a creative, an artist, and it changes my mood, too. It gives me energy and life. I find that the person I am currently internally is working on reflecting that change externally. That can show up in so many ways, whether it be changing your hair color, or even switching up your style. Right now I am into wearing more color and more pattern than ever. I am big on a boot with a heel that is comfortable, and being weatherproof is also a plus. I have a duality where I dance between casual and dressy, so the SOREL hiking boots speak my style language.
Darian: I tend to choose more subtle clothing with an occasional statement piece like a nice jacket or boots that compliment what I’m wearing. These SOREL boots are versatile and complement the seasonal change without sacrificing functionality.
What has the feedback been like for the HealHaus Live digital membership?
Darian: We get emails all the time from people that say how much our programming, even though it is online, has really helped them get through these last seven months. We definitely miss the physical space. We know how important it is for people to still touch and feel and be able to interact in person. But we are grateful that our community has supported us through this transition and been able to still connect virtually.
A lot of businesses, especially Black businesses, have struggled to stay open. What has that experience been like for you?
Elisa: The reality is that Black owned businesses are disproportionately affected now, during the pandemic. It’s very real that a lot of black owned businesses are closing. And I think this culture of supporting black owned businesses went viral, so a lot of people were following us, donating, getting memberships or buying product. So we definitely gained a lot of followers and attention during this time, because of the work that we do.
It might seem like a wild notion, but is there anything that you’ve had to adopt to or adapt to during this time that you think you might actually want to continue when things go back to normal?
Darian: We’re transitioning into this digital space where all of our classes and everything is online, and with that allows for more freedom. Elisa and I can be anywhere in the world running that. We don’t necessarily have to be in New York. I always want to have that freedom to be able to come and go as I please, especially because I’m such a big traveler, and I need that freedom of being able to go places. And although we can’t necessarily travel the way we want right now, still that freedom that has been brought upon us in this moment is something that I want to hold on to.
Moving forward, what are you optimistic about for 2020 and going into 2021?
Darian: I think there’s a huge opportunity for people to come together. It’s almost like in order for things to get better, everything has to be brought down for us to get to this other place on the other side. And so there’s a little bit of optimism with that. There’s so much going on this year. There has got to be something on the other side of all of this craziness.
Elisa: I’m just excited about my growth. This, yes, devastating time, has radically shifted my life, perspective, what I’m focused on and in some ways bringing me back to self. And I think that that has been the most important thing and the most beautiful thing.
This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.